Know your Rights
Immaterial property rights; copyright and patent. When working at the universities, employees often create certain pieces during their work that will be protected by copyright. Sometimes employees also make inventions that may be patented.
According to the law, the employer is entitled to apply for a patent for the invention an employee has invented as a part of their work tasks. However, the employee is always entitled to a fair and adequate compensation for the invention. Even if a written contract says otherwise, the employee is still entitled to compensation, the contract just is not valid for that part. The law clearly states that the employee may not relinquish their right to the compensation for a patent in beforehand.
A person who has created a literary or artistic work shall have copyright therein, whether it be a fictional or descriptive representation in writing or speech, a musical or dramatic work, a cinematographic work, a photographic work or other work of fine art, a product of architecture, artistic handicraft, industrial art, or expressed in some other manner.
Unlike with inventions, the employer does not by law get a right to the piece the copyright protects. However, the employer may get a right to use the piece in their own practice to some extent. The Copyright Act also does not automatically award any compensation to the employee, even if the employer may use the copyrighted item. Unless the parties have agreed upon a compensation, no compensation by law is awarded automatically.
In most cases it is wise to have a contract about IPR before entering an employment relationship, especially in the more creative line of work. However, sometimes the IPR contracts offered by the employer when signing the employment contract are not fair to the employee. They may also be even invalid, at least in some parts, because they for example deny the employee's right to compensation for an invention, or the terms of the contracts in general are too unfair somehow. Often the employee also does not fully understand the whole content of the contract and this can lead to misunderstandings.
Usually the employer offers the copyright or immaterial property right contracts as the employment contract is signed. Sometimes the employer may try to offer a contract during already existing employment relationship. In these cases, beware that the employee is by no means not obliged to sign such a contract.
If you are unsure whether to sign a copyright contract, or whether the terms of the contract are fair, you can always ask the Union to look at it before you sign. Or if you have already signed a contract and want to make sure what is agreed upon, you can also contact the Union.
text Mia Weckman lawyer, the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers